For those of you who enjoyed watching Transformers or Power Rangers as kids, this reboot of the 1980’s cartoon series Voltron: Defender of the Universe is for you. Produced by DreamWorks Animation Television and World Events Productions, the series was distributed by Netflix and animated by Studio Mir (a rather familiar name for those Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra fans out there). And, in a fit of boredom one Saturday afternoon, I watched the entire series straight.
The plot centers around the intergalactic threat The Galra Empire and its leader Zarkon who goes about spreading misery and oppression throughout the known universe. The only thing strong enough to defeat such an evil force would be Voltron (defender of the universe). Voltron is not a person, however, but rather five separate robotic lions capable of interstellar flight, manned by pilots, known as Paladins, with whom they share a special bond. The lions are colored (black, red, blue, yellow, and green) and each form a different part of Voltron (the head, the arms, the legs.) When forming Voltron, there’s this really cool sequence where the lions start changing shape and attaching to one another, all the while music that can only be classified as “space music” is playing.
Yes, it’s nothing new. Once again, there’s a powerful and corrupt force itching to take over the Universe, and only five, unsuspecting humans brought together by coincidental circumstances can defeat it.
However, the characters of Voltron: Legendary Defender bring a new vitality to this worn genre. Takashi Shirogane, referred to in the series as Shiro, is the sound leader of the Paladins and pilot of the black lion. He is considerably older than the teens that man the other lions, and they look to him for guidance. Keith, pilot of the red lion, is a temperamental individual who relies on his instincts and personal feeling to guide his decision making. Lance, pilot of the blue lion, is a wanton flirt who makes bad jokes and lives his life to a happy-go-lucky standard. Pidge, pilot of the green lion and most intelligent by far of all the Paladins, has an intricate past and secret that is understated by their studious, if somewhat standoffish at times, facade. Hunk, pilot of the yellow lion, is a gentle giant with a soft-spot for the helpless and in-need. Princess Allura, lone surviving female of the Altean race, is a both sweet and nurturing individual as well as someone driven by righteous indignation. She, along with her attendant Coran, have been frozen for the last ten thousand years to preserve their culture from the Galran attack.
After an unplanned wormhole jump, these earthlings find themselves in a galaxy far, far away, where they meet and befriend the Alteans. With what can only be deemed minor encouragement, they accede to forming Voltron to defeat Zarkon and piloting the lions, who have chosen them and seem to possess a form of intelligence. Each of these characters have their own motivations to exterminating the Galran Empire, however, some more noble than others.
It’s a story told with twists and humor with a light dash of science sprinkled in there. I can’t guarantee that all will enjoy. However, if you enjoyed Avatar: Last Airbender and Legend of Korra you’ll find the shadows of some of your old favorites. I highly recommend to just watch it already; it’s only 13 episodes.